Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Restaurant Review: Sumo Russellville

Recently, Josh and I found ourselves in need of some dinner on a weeknight in Russellville, Arkansas.  If you don't know the area, it's about an hour from Little Rock on interstate 40.  We were meeting up with some family and swapping furniture, and when all that was said and done, we needed some food.  Now, Russellville doesn't seem to have the most innovative cuisine, at least now what we could see in the area we were in 2 miles from the interstate.  So, a quick google search brought up what our options were, and Sumo seemed to be the best pick.

Now, I was not overly optimistic about this place.  The building is a weird, windowless box in the center of a huge parking lot.  Also, we were in a fairly small town in Arkansas.  However, we were pretty pleased with our overall experience.

We got there kind of late, about 8 pm, so the place was pretty cleaned out.  Most of the restaurant is taken up with hibachi grills, but we were escorted to a smaller room where you could just order off the menu.  The menu is huge.  There are tons of appetizers, sushi dishes, hibachi dishes, bento boxes, and noodle dishes.  The decor is pretty lush as well.  Obviously, this place is meant to be a "nice" place to eat in Russellville.

Josh and I split a seaweed salad, which was a very large portion.  The salad was tasty and squishy, as usual, and there were sliced cucumbers on the bottom.  Those got a bit soggy, and we left them in the bowl, but overall, the dish was fine.

There were a good variety of veggie rolls on the menu, including a Jade Roll (seaweed, avocado, and cucumber) and a shitake roll.  I went with my favorite, the avocado roll, and I spotted the sweet potato roll, which I figured I had to try.  I was so happy that I did.  The sweet potato was tempura fried and rolled up, which ended up being incredibly tasty.

My only complaint about the rolls would be that they were huge.  I mean, they were fairly impossible to get an entire bite in your mouth.  The ration of filling of rice to avocado on this roll wasn't the best.

The sweet potato roll was definitely my favorite, and I would go back for it again.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Chain Restaurant Review: On the Border

I love good food, and I prefer local restaurants to chains, but sometimes you're out and about and you're hungry.  Josh and I run errands often, and while Little Rock is booming with great restaurants, there are not a lot of good food options around our immediate area.  So, when we found ourselves walking out of the Academy Sport parking lot on a Thursday night into the aroma of the On The Border restaurant next door, we realized we were starving.  We'd had a not great Chef Shuttle  experience, but we'd never eaten in the restaurant, so we decided to risk it.

We didn't go in expecting a whole lot.  We thought we'd have some mediocre food, but we wouldn't go hungry.  What we found was pleasantly surprising!  First off, our salsa was actually really good.  I've always been partial to the store brand On the Border salsa, so to me, this was tasty.

I really didn't expect to find much on the menu besides a salad or some veggie fajitas, but I was immediately happy to see this Grilled Portobello Mushroom bowl!  I ordered it without cheese, some fresh guacamole, and a sangria.

The guacamole was recently prepared and very tasty.  The sangria was a little weird, because it contained a strong shot of rum, but I enjoyed it none the less.

When my bowl arrived, I was really happy.  The ingredients were light and fresh, without a lot of unnecessary oil.  The chimichurri sauce was spicy and a little rich, which was a good compliment to all the lighter ingredients.  The mushrooms were grilled and not slimey.  Overall, I was really impressed with this healthy, vegan option, and I'll be ordering it again.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

LR Restaurant Review: Juanita's

Juanita's in Downtown Little Rock is known for rocking live music and tasty Mexican food.  I had visited the previous location in SoMa once in college to see Buckethead, but I'd never actually eaten their food.  So, when my coworkers wanted to check out the downtown location, I was game.

As you can see, they have a pretty small menu, but it can be modified.  I quickly explained to the server that I was vegan, and he suggested I do black beans in whatever dish I chose.  I was feeling slightly healthy that day, so I opted for the fajita salad with black beans and no dairy.  You could also do the veggie fajitas, add black beans to the chimichanga, or go for some tacos.  I guess I'll need to come back and try more.

The house made salsa is fresh and delicious.  You can tell a lot about a restaurant by their salsa, in my opinion.

I used that fresh salsa as the dressing for this salad, and the bright guacamole finished out the dish.  I could tell the black beans were made from dried beans, not canned, which was a nice tough.  Overall, the dish was good, and I would have it again.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fort Smith Restaurant Review: Pho Vietnam

Some of the best Vietnamese food in all of Arkansas is in Fort Smith, and the best tofu bahn mi in the entire state is at Pho Vietnam.  It is worth the pilgrimage to dine in this small, unassuming restaurant, because the food inside is killer.  Many try to replicate the sandwich, but none come close.  In fact, everything on the menu is cheap and delicious.  Bring cash, because they don't take cards.

As soon as you sit down, you are greeted with a piping hot pot of tea.  It's standard, and it's delicious.  You'll need some time to go over the vast menu, which has tons of vegan options.  I look through all the items, thinking maybe this time I'll get something different.  It never happens, though.  I always order vegetarian spring rolls and a tofu bahn mi.

The spring rolls are stuffed with rice noodles and tofu, and they come with an amazing peanut sauce.  That could be lunch in itself, but don't miss out on the bahn mi.  At $3.95, it's the cheapest and most delicious dish in Arkansas.  Ask them to leave off the mayo to make vegan.  You won't need it.  Just slather your sandwich in hot sauce.

The french loaf is light and airy, warm with a crispy outer crust and a soft interior.  It's piled high with tofu, pickled veggies, cilantro, and jalapenos.  Each bite is delicious, and you'll be sad when it's gone.  At less than 4 dollars, order another one!

I can't stress how how much you'll love this sandwich.  If you visit Fort Smith often, or you're just passing through, do not miss this hidden gem.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Finding Healthy Vegan Options at Chain Restaurants

If you work an office job like I do, you may find yourself out with a group of people minus your well prepared vegan lunch.  Fear not, if you are easy going and open minded, it's pretty easy to find healthy, vegan options at most restaurants.  Now, if you're going to a limited BBQ menu and everything is cooked in bacon grease, then yes, you will probably have a hard time.  Chain restaurants, while not always known for their innovative cuisine and quality, usually have a few "healthy" dishes that can be easily modified.

I was pleasantly surprised recently during a trip to P.F. Chang's.  I hadn't eaten here in years, but I found myself out with my office, and I saw lots of things on the menu that could be great.  I ordered the Buddha's Feast, steamed, with quinoa instead of rice.  It was a huge amount of veggies, and I was happy to have the quinoa option.

This wrap was from Bar Louie, stuffed with veggies, with a side of broccoli.  It's one of my favorite office lunches, and I know I've mentioned it to you all before.  Whether at this restaurant or another, look for veggie wraps and easy ways to modify them to make vegan.

If sushi is an option being thrown around, I always jump at it!  I know I can easily get a delicious lunch.  My go-to order at any sushi restaurant is a seaweed salad and an avocado roll.

If you have Tropical Smoothie in your area, don't forget that you can get anything made with Beyond Meat chicken strips.  They recently tweaked the recipe for their Thai Chicken Salad and wrap, and they're even better than before.  They have tons of vegan smoothie options, too.  I always ask for no sugar, because who needs added sugar in a smoothie??

Mexican restaurants are easy, too, and if you don't eat the entire basket of chips, it can be quite healthy.  Look for black beans that are cooked vegetarian and add them to a simple salad.  I usually go for a fresh made guacamole, too.

I know some vegans balk at ordering a salad that they could make at home at a non-vegan restaurant, but look through the menu and identify things you can throw on to make your lunch hearty.  I always try to throw on black beans and avocado.  It will complete most salads.

Indian restaurants can be a good option, but sometimes it's hit or miss.  Recently, Josh and I drove down to Bryant on a Sunday morning to try out their lunch buffet, only to realize it was really small and all the veggie dishes were made with dairy.  If you go to a large enough one, they'll usually have a few non-dairy vegetarian dishes.  You can always call ahead to ask.

I think the key, especially when dining with coworkers or colleagues, is to be flexible and easy going.  Veganism is still a weird way of eating for most people, so if your non-vegan dining partners see you can order at almost any place, maybe they'll be more likely to give it a try themselves.  This seems to be quite a debate in our community lately, but that's the way I look at it.  I recently caught some flack for posting this video on my facebook feed, but I'm posting it at the end of this because it's truly the way I feel about restaurant dining.  I would love to know your thoughts.

Do you only eat at vegan restaurants?  What are your thoughts on being flexible vs rigid when dining in large groups?  Leave me a comment!